It seems as though we’ve been walking for quite a while now. Sarah has gotten a few feet ahead of me again. We’ve moved past the fields and into a smallish wood in a valley between two hills. Sarah stops, and I peer ahead to see what she is looking at.
At first, it looks like another cow, but then I wonder if it’s a bull instead. It is standing on a path about twenty five feet ahead of us, looking at us. No, looking at me. Sarah takes a few more steps toward the animal, apparently unsurprised by its presence here.
“Has it gotten loose?”
“Oh, no.” She glances back at me with a small grin. “It was not formerly confined.”
I notice, at exactly the same moment, that Sarah also used the pronoun ‘it,’ and that the animal has neither visible male genitalia nor udder. “It’s the one who is neither male nor female, isn’t it?”
I’m not sure what else to say at this point, but now there no longer seems any need for comment. It, who had been following us quietly up to now, has just passed us, and is walking slowly but steadily toward the bovine. The latter shows neither fear nor aggression, but simply waits. When It reaches the animal, she reaches out and gently begins to stroke its head, then to scratch behind its ear. The animal drops its head slightly and steps a bit closer, losing itself in the petting like a huge dog.
Sarah falls back and stands beside me, watching. The face of Das Es has softened, making me realize for the first time in years how hard and taught it usually has been. It’s much more relaxed and content now, even than she was on the beach. She leans against the animal and continues to stroke it lovingly, and the strange creature returns the affection, again reminding me of a ridiculously oversized house pet.
Sarah looks at me. “I think I’m beginning to see. This is the first of a series of stations. I don’t know how many, but I’m sure there are others. What is happening in front of us now is something that you must…” She falls silent, looking puzzled.
“Well, yes. But there’s another word…”
I look in her eyes and see reflections of myself. “Confront?”
She purses her lips and looks back at It. “Encounter, at least.”
I look at the animal, which is looking back at me again, even though it is still lost in a vaguely feline bliss. I can feel a sort of purring, though there is none to be heard.
“Is it sexual desire?”
I’m slightly afraid that the topic will bother Sarah somehow, but of course it does not. “Yes, of course.” Silent pause. “But…?”
I nod. “But that’s only one part of it. A swath that runs through it like a festering wound—but still only a part.”
Sarah returns the nod. “You experienced it as a wound, even though you do not bleed as a woman does.”
It’s true. I’m played by a woman today, as is Sarah. But I am not, and have never been a woman in that sense. “Is it sexist for us to compare such bleeding to a wound?”
“That’s just another way of asking if we are sexist, and you know the answer to that. How could we not be? How could one not be? The important thing here is that you experienced it as a wound.”
“Experienced what as a wound? Sexual desire? Desire of an Other? Desire for a moment of physical bliss? Desire to be recognized in love? Desire to recognize myself in love? Just desire, full stop?”
Sarah is looking at me thoughtfully. “Desire is surely what stands yonder with the one who has no sex. I think you are on the right track (speaking momentarily as if there is only one right track).”
I think, and there is silence for at least a minute. The smile on It’s face is almost painful in its rapture.
I cross my arms, and shift my weight back and forth between my two feet. “So… The desire is not for ‘having sex,’ not for what we think of as ‘sex,’ but for something else. No, not something else; something… beneath, behind, deeper. Something that is the condition for the possibility of sex, in the broadest sense of sexuality?”
I look at Sarah again, who is still looking at me. She says nothing.
I uncross my arms and put my hands in my pockets, not knowing what else to do with them. “It’s not really a wound, is it?”
“If it is a wound…” She looks at the petting session taking place in front of us again. “…then wouldn’t that mean that YOU are a wound?” She looks at me again. “…that WE are a wound?”
I hesitate only a moment before responding. “Why not? Mightn’t that be the conclusion?”
After the same brief hesitation, she nods. “Yes, it might be.”
The bovine moves away from It, and away from the path into the wood. The creature stops and turns, looking at It, clearly waiting for her to follow. It looks at me, still smiling blissfully. “I think I’ll be here when you get back, OK?”
I nod, and she follows the animal into the woods at a leisurely pace.
After watching them go, Sarah begins to move forward again. “I think we can go on now.”